I pride myself on being Italian. I live a life complete with the classic large, close family, loud aunts, uncles, and parents, all with friends who bring us jugs of homemade wine and dozens of tomato plants in the summer. But above all, I pride myself on growing up constantly surrounded by good, wholesome, delicious food. While I will never miss a Sunday dinner/the chance to eat my aunt's handmade ravioli, I never really had the quintessential Italian cuisine upbringing. While I would have liked to spend Saturday afternoons in the kitchen with my grandparents, learning the secrets of their sauce or how to properly make meatballs, they all passed away before I had that chance. It is unfortunate because I hear that my grandfather was a major "foodie" (long before that term was even coined) who enjoyed spending his weekends making homemade vanilla ice cream, root beer, and beef stew. However, I like to think his culinary gene was passed onto me. I channel him every time I heat up oil in a pan.
Although I don't have those memories of spending a Sunday afternoon in the kitchen with my elders, I do have my mother and my aunt, both of whom ignited my passion for cooking, yet in different ways. Nevertheless, both taught me about the importance of simplicity. Just because a recipe only has a handful of ingredients, doesn't mean that it's not as delicious as its more complex counterpart.
So today I am feeling inspired to share one of the first family recipes that I learned by heart: pizza sauce. While simplicity is key in Italian cuisine, it should not be so simple that one must only open a jar of pre-made tomato sauce to add to their pre-made pizza crust, if they are in the mood for a pizza. As I have stated before, pizza is my favorite thing to make. I love the gradual process of assembling all the ingredients (dough, sauce, cheese, toppings) while my pizza stone slowly warms in the oven, all of which is proceeded by the construction of the pizza which must be assembled swiftly and shoved back into the oven, so as to ensure that the oven temperature remains as high as possible.
Although toppings usually receive all the attention when the topic of pizza comes up, I believe that the power of a good sauce that offers just enough flavor, but not too much so as to overpower the entire pie, should never be underestimated. So on that note, here is my family's coveted recipe for a delicious pizza sauce
"If-simple-is-wrong-I-don't-want-to-be-right" Pizza Sauce
Makes enough for 2-3 pizzas, depending on size.
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 28-oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
dried basil, dried mint, dried parsley, dried oregano, 1 generous pinch of each
crushed red pepper flakes, 1 generous pinch
3-4 fresh basil leaves
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1. Heat olive oil in a medium sautee pan over medium heat
2. Add garlic clove and sautee for 30 seconds- 1 minute, or until golden and fragrant (DON'T BURN IT)
3. Add crushed tomatoes (careful, oil may splatter a bit) and stir with a wooden spoon several times
4. Add dried herbs and red pepper flakes, stir to combine
5. Bring everything to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer
6. Add fresh basil leaves, salt, and pepper, to taste
7. Allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until sauce is reduced and thickened
8. A few minutes before the sauce is done, taste it, and add more salt and pepper, if needed
9. Turn off heat and allow to sit for at least five more minutes to allow the flavors to meld
Side note: I love having leftover sauce to dip my pizza crust in!
Writing this recipe has me itching to flee to the kitchen and make about fifty pizzas. Alas, I am studying for my last round of undergrad finals. But I definitely know the first thing I am going to do when I am done to celebrate!
Until then, buon appetito!